Injuries are an unfortunate part of baseball, even for some of the game’s best players.
There are more than a few players who would likely have plaques in Cooperstown right now if they experienced better health during their careers. Injuries have taken a toll on some of today’s top talents as well, including the crop of eight below. All eight have had their share of success at the Major League level but have been stalled by health woes, preventing them from reaching their true potential.
Hope springs anew at the start of every season, however, and 2023 could be the year each of these players finds the health necessary for them to get back on a path toward the top of the baseball mountain.
Ronald Acuña Jr., OF, Braves
While Acuña has had brushes with superstardom through his first five years in the Majors, there's a strong sense that he hasn’t reached his apex. The outfielder did record 41 homers and 37 steals as a 21-year-old in 2019, but 5.1 bWAR remains his career high -- a number 29 position players either matched or exceeded last year alone. Acuña was on pace to shatter that mark while making a run at a rare 50/30 season in 2021, but he tore his ACL in July and wasn’t quite back to his old self last year, producing a career-low 114 OPS+ with 2.8 bWAR over 119 games. As he moves further away from his knee surgery, the 25-year-old could have a huge year in store.
Byron Buxton, OF, Twins
What Buxton could accomplish over a full, healthy season remains one of baseball’s great unknowns, though his eye-popping pace over the past three years -- 51 homers, 14 steals and 8.9 bWAR per 162 games -- provides some basis of what that might look like. The ultra-talented center fielder has been dogged by injuries throughout his career, playing more than 92 games in a season only once (140 in 2017). Last year, a right hip strain and a right knee ailment that required season-ending surgery put a damper on his first All-Star campaign. Will Buxton ever put it all together? Who knows. But we can dream.